When that brain fog hits in the early afternoon and you find yourself reaching for that extra cup of coffee to help you focus, you might find yourself thinking, “there has to be a better way.” And there is.
There are a lot of things that we can do to improve our overall brain health and then by association, our focus and memory (good news, coffee is one of them!).
Increasing exercise and decreasing our intake of certain substances can add years of healthy brain life to our lives–and who doesn’t want that? Check out these tips to find out how you can keep your brain in tip-top shape!
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Multiple research studies show that people who are physically active are less likely to experience a decline in their mental function and have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.”
There are a lot of really technical ways that exercise contributes to brain health, but to keep it simple, it increases blood flow to the brain and this blood flow isn’t just helpful, it’s essential in order to deliver all the nutrients the brain needs to perform vital functions–including memory.
Exercise can help improve memory by, “increasing molecular targets like the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This molecular factor increases synaptogenesis, forming new synapses that mediate learning and memory, making it easier to absorb information and form long-term memories.”
So if you want to hold on to your memories, and keep your brain healthy longer, make sure you are exercising regularly.
Your brain is like a muscle and without exercise, it will deteriorate. In other words, use it or lose it.
Here are some things you can do to exercise your brain (and some things you shouldn’t do)
- Crossword puzzles
- Sudoku puzzles
- Learn a new language
- Do a puzzle
- Play cards
Pick different activities to “cross-train” your brain. So if you do a jigsaw puzzle one day, try reading or Sudoku the next.
If you’re looking to optimize your brain power, here are things to avoid:
- The paid brain-training apps (according to the Mayo Clinic, these tend to focus on memorization skills)
- Too much television (this is a passive activity that doesn’t stimulate the brain)
- Too much screen time
A Healthy Diet
Eating the right foods can help maintain a healthy brain and the foods found in a mediterrean diet have been found to be particularly beneficial to the brain. Foods like;
- Plant-based, whole foods
- Whole grains
- Fish and healthy fats (olive oil)
This diet features less red meat and salt and very little processed foods which are often filled with chemicals that can lead to brain fog and an overall decrease in healthy brain function.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “We know that omega fatty acids found in extra-virgin olive oil and other healthy fats are vital for your cells to function correctly, appears to decrease your risk of coronary artery disease, and increases mental focus and slow cognitive decline in older adults.”
Here are some more healthy brain foods you should work into your diet.
- Coffee (yay!)
- Pumkin seeds
- Dark Chocolate (yay!)
- Green Tea
Good news for those who love sleep–it’s good for your brain! In fact, it’s downright necessary in order to maintain a health brain. “There are some theories that sleep helps clear abnormal proteins in your brain and consolidates memories, which boosts your overall memory and brain health…Consecutive sleep gives your brain the time to consolidate and store your memories effectively.”
So don’t skimp on shut-eye. It’s important to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.
This might be a tough one for many to hear considering that 60% of adults drink alcoholic beverages and American’s average 3.6 drinks a week (though these numbers are dropping), but a recent study out of Harvard shows that even one drink a day was linked with reduced brain size.
An analysis of data from more than 36,000 adults, led by a team from the University of Pennsylvania, found that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption was associated with reductions in overall brain volume.
In his podcast, Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist and tenured Professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, suggests that the effects of drinking can last long after the last drink of the evening has been set down and even into the days and weeks after a night out drinking. He states that even low-to-moderate alcohol consumption negatively impacts the brain and body in direct ways.
While drinking responsibly as an adult isn’t something we judge, it is something that should be considered as a factor when it comes to brain health.
So when you’re making moves to maintain a healthy lifestyle, like changing your diet and working out more, don’t forget to consider your brain health in the big picture plan. You can’t put insoles in your brain to help support it, but you can make small lifestyle changes to keep your brain at its best!